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Informant: So Russefeiring is a celebration of graduates from high school… I guess high school, sort of… The age is kind of in between high school and college I think, ‘cause most of them are 18 or 19. Um, but, you know, they’re ending a three-year academic education. And so they celebrate in the week before Independence Day, where they, um…  They wear these special suits or coats through that whole time that they decorate and draw on and have their friends sign them and all kinds of crafty stuff. And then they have graduation hats that have this long string coming down. And during this week they have all these obstacle things that they have to do, and everything that they do gives them a little, kind of… Treat, or an award that they tie onto their hats. So let’s say you kiss the president of a school, then you get a knot in the string on your hat… And then if you drink a whole bottle of champagne in one, big gulp, um… Then you get a champagne uh–what’s it called…? The cork. And you tie that onto the string or into the hat… Like silly things, you know?

Interviewer: Can you talk a little bit about the different colors of the uniforms? 

Informant: Yeah so if you went to the schools where you, um, studied economy and finance… Then you were called blåruss… Like “blue russ,” and your hat’s blue. If you were into the STEM subjects, then your hat is red. And traditionally, if you… Went to a school that wasn’t strictly academic, like a trade school, then your hat would be black… I think you can study language, like Norwegian, at both schools, so it just depends on what school you went to.

Interviewer: Can you talk about the bus culture? 

Informant: So their last year, the year that they graduate, the students start early planning for their graduation and for this one week. So a lot of kids will get together and they will purchase a bus and then they will decorate the bus… It’s kind of a van more than a bus though. I would call it a van… And they will decorate it on the outside. They will usually ask a younger student who is not graduating if they will be willing to drive them around for that week.

Interviewer: And can you talk a bit about the drinking culture during that final week?

Informant: During that week the school knows this is happening. I mean, you still have to go to class, but people don’t take it that seriously. Because once Indepence Day has happened, everyone is studying. ‘Cause all the exams are after Independence Day. So before that it’s not really taken seriously. People are probably drunk in class. You don’t really go home that week… You sleep on the bus. You sleep wherever. You go home to shower every once in a while. Maybe. 


Informant: Our bus was both boys and girls… And I would imagine there were around ten of us, I think… You know, cause it costs money. We had to buy the bus and it costs money to fix it up a little bit… We didn’t have group names or get pins. I think a lot of people do now, but we didn’t.

Interviewer: Did you ever hear about your parents’ Russefeiring?

Informant: No, ‘cause none of them went to school like I did, you know? My mom didn’t go to that kind of school. And my dad, back then, he went to a sort of trade school, and he was much older when he did that. So they didn’t celebrate that way. Cause none of my parents were academic.


Russefeiring is a celebration, commemorating the end of the students’ studies. It is also a rite of passage into adulthood. During this one week, debauchery and mischief are encouraged. The students become trickster figures, of a sort, as they act impulsively, break rules, and emphasize humor and fun above all. The students are in a liminal place, on the threshold between adolescence and adulthood, as they are not quite students any longer, but also have not yet graduated. They are unstable figures, as demonstrated by the mischief they enact. Russefeiring also seems to be a sort of catharsis before final exams. One might even consider it a catharsis preceding adulthood. Once they have graduated, they must find jobs or dive more seriously into their studies at professional schools (ex. medical school). Russefeiring is one last teenage-hurrah; it is a week of instability before the students have to become stable adults.


Further reading:

Sande, Allan. “The Norwegian ‘russefeiring’. The Use of Alcohol as a Ritual in the ‘rite of Passage’ to Adulthood.” Nordisk Alkohol- & Narkotikatidskrift : NAT, vol. 17, no. 5-6, SAGE Publications, 2000, pp. 340–54, doi:10.1177/1455072500017005-603.

Norwegian Graduation Celebration

The tradition started in 1905 when Norway got its independence, and it’s sort of a combination of celebrating the end of high school and independence day (17th of May). Basically in their sophomore year or something, very early on in high school, kids get together in groups of like 20-30 girls and 20-30 guys and start saving money to buy a bus (party bus) in their senior year. Basically each group picks a project to work on over the two years that will help them raise enough money to do it (typically about 200,000 dollars per group.)
Not everyone does it, but a lot of kids do. And basically with these busses, you create your own theme so one bus could be called just weird names like sin city or vice city, or one bus could be called champions league and  umm and you renovate the bus create it and decorate it in your own theme by re decorating the whole inside, changing the seating, sometimes adding sofas in the bus, adding speakers, lights, bars, and some people put karaoke machines inside their bus, thats a new thing.
And basically then there are different competitions between busses: who has the best sound systems, exterior, interior, etc and the competitions are regional or countrywide.
I’m from east of Norway and its more of a cultural thing where I’m from, and most parts of the country if they can’t afford it do it with busses so they just do it with like minivans.
So then there’s different festivals around the country- these are called literally translated its called country meet ups and then the name of the place” and at these FESTIVALS (which last for like 2-4 days) have performances and concerts by artists, and the busses are all set up in the same huge space and the best busses usually have a large set up around their bus with light shows and a stage and you can imagine, and they are judged not only on the bus but also the set up. I would say they put a lot of money into the busses. Basically throughout high school each person ends up spending like about 7-12 thousand dollars on the whole thing.
And the festivals happen right before you graduate and they happen from like April 20th through sometime in May but not all at the same time, sort of spread out through that time period and all over the country. And then when the busses aren’t at their specific festivals they just get driven through the cities all month and the kids party on the bus.
Every bus also has a name that goes along with it’s theme and all the people on it have headbands with the name of the bus on it and wear them to the festivals to represent their busses. And each person also orders different colored pants, these are special pants, and you can have pants that could be a one pieces or suspenders like overalls that are called “russebukse” or anything like that and they’re usually either red, blue, green, or black, most popular are red and blue. It used to be based on your major or whatever you were planning to study after high school,  so IT and Media would have blue pants and general subjects would have red, and green would be if you were like doing agricultural stuff and black would be for those who were doing labor subjects (plumber).
I would say that graduating high school is a really special part of a teenagers life even more so than in other places because we have this crazy tradition that is also mixed with our independence day. People that celebrate this holiday
For more information on this celebration see video below or article Norwegian Russ- Silly Season is Here, Life in Norway by David Nikel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lSeznt_3Ng
The informant, a fellow peer, told me this story on a long bus ride we were on together recently. While the folklore itself is engaging and definitely meaningful to anyone who has had a high school graduation celebration, the most entertaining part of the story was just how excited the informant was as he was telling me about it. He really did seem prideful about this piece of folklore that is so specific to his country and its culture and traditions.